£16 post free World-wide

 


555 sonatas 9Cds mp3 files
Only £22


 


Benjamin: Written on Skin £16

Search
What's New
Previous CDs
Concerts
Jazz
Nostalgia
Composers
Resources
Announce
Labels index


Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



CD REVIEW

Some items
to consider


BRAHMS Complete Edition
58CD £95.22


Shostakovich 14 Petrenko


Rachmaninov #3
Prokofiev #2

 


Dunedin Consort

Peter Grimes

Hymn of Jesus: Sea Drift

Complete Mozart Edition
Mozart complete edition

Vaughan Williams Symphonies 5 & 8 £11

Weiner, Klepper, Bloch, Schulhoff £12 post free


Available again

alternatively
AmazonUK

 

Simon McENERY (b. 1964)
The Resurrection (2005) [66.44]
Imogen Roose (soprano), Carolyn Jackson (mezzo), Declan Kelly (tenor), Dyfed Wyn Evans (baritone), Daniel Cooke (piano)
Salisbury Cathedral Choir
Sarum Orchestra/David Halls
rec. Sarum St. Martin, July 2007
PRIORY PRCD1002 [66.44]
Experience Classicsonline


Composing is a practical craft; you need to write a work suitable for your performers especially if they are commissioning you. Very few composers can get away with writing exactly what they want and expecting to get it performed. The trick, inevitably, becomes one of creating something which has something of the eternal verities whilst being within the scope of the performers. With any luck, your chosen audience will enjoy it as well.
 
So, with a commission to write a major oratorio to be premiered during Holy Week at Salisbury Cathedral it is unlikely that Simon McEnery was ever going to write a piece of complete Ferneyhough-esque music. The brief was to write a popular oratorio which took the gospel story on from where Stainer’s Crucifixion stops. The reference to the Stainer work is important; this new piece with a text by Canon Jeremy Davies includes three hymns just like the Stainer.
 
McEnery and Davies have collaborated before, on The Way of the Cross which was premiered in Salisbury in 2000. Davies’s text comprises a series of extended dramatic meditations on the events in John’s Gospel. There is no recitative and no strict narrative, instead there are fourteen set-pieces which take us from the empty tomb to our own contemplation of the resurrection. Though there are fiour soloists, they do not take named roles and, for instance, the movement entitled Peter and Jesus is in fact sung by the baritone and soprano soloists.
 
Davies’s text is capable and poetic in a direct and robust way. For me, he falls between the poeticism really necessary for this task and the sort of robust prose which might be equally appealing. That said, my reactions to the text are rather coloured by my views as to whether I would want to set it, or not. For this, dear reader, is one of those reviews where the reviewer’s attitude is inevitably complicated by their involvement with the material. I can’t help listening to this work without thinking how I would have approached it.
 
Because my feelings about the libretto are rather ambivalent, I thought it might be helpful if I quoted a passage. Here is a verse from the second movement, The Empty Tomb:-
 
                        ‘For God’s sake listen and open your eyes
                        The truth is plain: the world has changed
                        From Friday’s death and Saturday’s grieving
                        Shattered hopes and minds deranged
                        The body’s gone, the grave’s been stripped:
                        The massive stone has been rolled away
                        The Roman guard that Pilate set
                        Did not survive the light of day.
 
Though Davies includes three hymns in the piece, his writing in the other movements is extremely hymn-like, with verses often being strophic.
 
A more interesting point, is how a non-Christian might take the piece. Davies’s writing is not always direct, he refers to events in the Gospel narrative rather then telling the story directly. I wondered how someone who did not know the story very well would get on with the text: would they make sense of the piece. Similarly, I wonder how non-believers might take a work which is so bound up with presenting Christian belief. Contrary to popular opinion, Handel’s oratorios were not intended as religious works: they were theatre pieces telling rattling good stories.
 
McEnery’s atmospheric score is set for four soli, chorus, string orchestra and piano; a combination which is obviously intended to be highly practical, but which the composer makes good use of. As can probably be guessed from the description of the brief for this work, McEnery writes tunes. But the work is well away from a simple tuneful romp. Instead, he embeds his melodic material into more complex structures. Besides being a composer, McEnery is also a tenor, being both a choral singer and a cabaret performer. This gives his music an immense feeling of practicality. He responds to Davies’s text with music which is apt in form and never over-taxes his forces or his audience. McEnery has a good feel for textures and creates a distinctive multi-layered texture for each of his movements. The overall impression is that of a Musical. Much of McEnery’s writing, his big tunes, his emotional punch at the ends of movements, owes a lot to the way modern musicals are written.
 
The result is credible and creditable. It almost certainly went down well with his target audience who were there for both musical and devotional reasons. As such, McEnery’s Resurrection aptly fulfils his brief and provides a highly attractive and practical work which will be of interest to other choral societies and church groups. There is however scope for the piece to have gone further - to have pushed the boundaries just a little. McEnery and Davies seem just a shade too content in their own little world and I wanted an element of danger. This is, after all, a piece about the Resurrection. The work is too comfortably descriptive and does not, for me, evoke the mystery and danger of the gospel events.
 
Salisbury Cathedral Choir and the Sarum Orchestra give an exemplary performance under David Halls, though there are occasional lapses in ensemble. The writing for choir is relatively straightforward and homophonic. The talents of Salisbury Cathedral Choir seem under-used somehow. There were a number of moments when I longed for a little vocal polyphony, or for McEnery to add a counter-melody to one of his strong tunes.
 
When it comes to the soloists, things are problematic. Tenor Declan Kelly has a fine lyric voice, but appears a little taxed by the high tessitura of some of the writing and soprano Imogen Roose sounds positively uncomfortable. McEnery’s writing for the soprano soloist is demanding indeed. Dyfed Wyn Evans has a lovely baritone voice and his is the voice which responds best to the microphone. Carolyn Jackson seems to come off worse as the microphone has caught so much of her vibrato that it becomes too intrusive and tends to obscure the vocal lines.
 
Considering the work is in English and has a distinctly contemplative and devotional cast, I would also have liked better diction and a greater feeling for the words from the singers. There is too much of a sense of the performers being rather too relaxed in enjoying McEnery’s eminently singable vocal lines, to the detriment of Davies’s text. I am not convinced that you could follow this piece without recourse to the libretto, which in an approachable setting of an English text is surely a cardinal sin.
 
Overall this is a fascinating and accessible work, one to which I will return in the future. If it does not quite reach the heights of which, I think, McEnery is capable, it certainly fulfils amply the commissioning brief, which is no small credit.
 
Robert Hugill
 


 


Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Hyperion

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
Alto
Arcodiva
CDAccord
Centaur
Hallé
Hortus
Lyrita
Nimbus
Northern Flowers
Redcliffe
Sheva
Talent
Toccata Classics


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly newsletter
 


EXPLORE MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL

Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews

 

Discographies
   Composer
      Composer surveys
   National
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
.
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

Interviews
With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site

Nostalgia

Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Comment
Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure

Announcements

 

Community
Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Reviewers
Pat and present

Helpers invited!

Resources
How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips


Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Publishers
Other links
Newsgroups
Web News sites etc

PotPourri
A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Questionnaire    
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Dictionary
Magazines
Newsfeed  
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools




Return to Review Index

Untitled Document


Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.